Saturday, May 9, 2015

Five Takeaways From U2′s Triumphant Return to ‘The Tonight Show’

No matter how hard the world may try, it is not possible to keep a good rock and roll band down.

Nearly six months after U2 were forced to cancel their weeklong residency on “The Tonight Show,” Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. finally made it to Studio 6B Friday night. It had been rough going for the Irish rockers for a while: Their latest album, “Songs of Innocence,” released in September 2014, was met with a ton of backlash from iTunes users, who saw the free download as an infringement of privacy. Then, in November, Bono sustained serious injuries from his now-famous biking accident in New York. His recovery period placed U2 in an involuntary hiatus for almost the first half of 2015.

But, time heals all wounds, and as they demonstrated on “The Tonight Show,” U2 are not going to let a couple of catastrophes cramp their style (although, speaking of style – Bono, the new blond look isn’t working, sorry). With their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour set to kick off May 14 in Vancouver, the band is back, ready to rock and still willing to poke fun at its misfortune. And judging from U2′s “Tonight Show” sneak preview – the music icons were the sole guests – anyone with tickets to this summer’s tour is in for one monster of a concert.

Here are the five takeaways from U2′s “Tonight Show” return:

In this pre-recorded bit, Bono addresses his “cycling spill” head-on by venturing onto the streets of Manhattan on a bike for the first time since the accident. Jimmy Fallon, in solidarity, rides with the singer (on his own basket-and-streamer-adorned bike, it should be noted). But Bono doesn’t get far from 30 Rockefeller Plaza before a large grey van (driven, of course, by the Edge, with Clayton and Mullen riding in the front seat) slams into him a total of three times. Maybe it’s the titanium elbow, but the rocker still manages to walk away, unscathed.

The “Tonight Show” house band joined U2 for this web-exclusive performance of their 1988 “Rattle + Hum” track “Angel of Harlem,” which proved two things: One, U2 have certainly made the most of their time off, because they sound better than ever. And two: There is going to be a high demand for the Roots to make some guest appearances on this summer’s tour.

3.       Bono’s been invited to dinner at a New York firehouse

After Fallon ribbed Bono for confusing a Boston accent for a New York one (the Irishman referred to Madison Square Garden as “the Gahden”), the singer fired back with a story that guarantees him New York street cred for life. A few hours before the band arrived to do “The Tonight Show,” Bono received a message from the two Engine 44 firemen who “picked [him] up off the street” when he had his biking accident, inviting him to dinner at their firehouse. The Dubliner was also quite pleased to learn that the Engine 44 crew is known as “the Fighting Irish.”

4.       Whether it’s packing stadiums or busking in a New York subway station, U2 can still draw a crowd

As previously reported, U2 were spotted late Monday night at the 42nd Street Grand Central subway station (or, as Bono called it, the “42nd tube station”) filming this segment with Fallon. Donning wigs and faux facial hair, and playing their 1987 hit “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for,” U2 made for a passable New York busking band (Mullen even swapped out his drum kit for a set of overturned buckets) – meaning, commuters chose making their train instead of stopping to listen. But once they ditched the disguises and kicked into “Desire,” that’s when a lot more people started delaying their ride home. (In truth, a crowd had already formed before the band tossed off the wigs, probably because they saw all of the TV cameras.)

This segment is also historic because it contains the only known footage of Larry Mullen Jr. smiling.

5.       The band previewed their intimate staging for this summer’s iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour

At the end of the show, U2 performed two songs – “Beautiful Day,” from the Grammy-winning 2000 album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” and “Song for Someone” from “Songs of Innocence.” But just as they want their upcoming tour to be an immersive experience for their fans, U2 also decided to bring that intimacy to their “Tonight Show” gig by moving the stage to the center of the studio, which allowed for an extra crop of fans to surround the band.

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